Flying pages

Home      <>      Last updated Sunday, 2013-11-03

Image of my Mother 24 November 2002: This is my Mom, Helen, on her first small plane ride. She was a little nervous, but trusts her son implicitly, and after all, he'd had his PPL for almost 6 weeks, and had a total of 9 hours and 23 landings in the Warrior. In all honesty I was probably more nervous than she. Every son wants his Mom to be proud of him. I just hoped I didn't blow any landings. This first ride was not meant to be challenging. We took off from Snohomish Harvey Field (S43, 7 miles east of Everett, WA), at 1:30 PM, overflew Skagit Regional (BVS), then turned west for Friday Harbor (FHR). We landed at Friday Harbor, immediately cycled around and took off, then retraced our course back to Harvey field. The fight was about 90 minutes, Mom had a wonderful time, and often mentioned the next time we fly. Thankfully, I did not embarrass myself and both landings were fine. We both missed my Dad.

"Where Eagles Soar", ... yeah, it's a corny page title, but an image from my flight training has stuck with me. I trained at Harvey Field (S43), Snohomish, WA which is 7 NM east of a class D airport, Paine Field (PAE). This was a convenient location because Harvey is a non-towered field and Paine is towered. Thus, during training we were exposed to the best and worst of both worlds.

I trained in a two-seat Cessna 152 and would often use the short (3000'x75') PAE runway 16L/34R. PAE sits at about 600' elevation on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. The many tall Douglas Firs along the edge and downslope of the bluff is prime nesting territory for predatory birds such as Ospreys and Eagles. Bald Eagles are BOLD and have no reason to fear anything they encounter in the air. On one of my early solo visits to PAE and a few times thereafter I shared the air with a mature bald eagle which unlike myself was totally unconcerned by a meager 50 foot separation from my little plane. We flew so close I could see the hook of its beak and the yellow of its eyes. It coldly looked me over then lazily banked, caught an updraft, and climbed slightly to pass above and behind the plane.

It is a corny title but it is a reminder that we are just clumbsy visitors to that Eagle's natural domain.

These pages are a work in progress and much will change as time passes. Don't hold these first feeble attempts against me.

How I came to fly at the ripe old age of 48

I had a personal epiphany. We all intellectually know that life is ephemeral, fleeting, short, unexpected, indeterminate, and a precious gift. However, we often do not act as though we know it. I had always wanted to learn to fly. From my teenage years, then again in my early thirties, I thought about learning to fly, but somehow never got around to it.

In August 2000, my father, a healthy and active man of 74, destined to probably live another 20 years, fell off a ladder, hit his head and died in a matter of hours.

Did I mention that life is ephemeral, fleeting, short, unexpected, and indeterminate?

Earlier in the summer of 2000, a long time buddy, Gregg, mentioned that he was in flight training. We fantasized briefly about my learning to fly and then buying a plane together. The next year, late summer 2001, Gregg had gotten his PPL-ASEL (Private Pilot License - Airplane, Single Engine, Land), and mentioned jokingly that he was going to look around for a plane for us to buy. A few weeks later he called and said that he had bought the plane. Now after my father's plunge, and having truely learned the lesson that life is ephemeral, fleeting, short, unexpected, and indeterminate, I decided to take my own plunge, and started flight training in November 2001. The plan was to get my license and then buy half of Gregg's plane.

On 11 October 2002, coincidentally my sister's 40th birthday, I passed my FAA checkride, learned the secret handshake and passed into the brotherhood and sisterhood of aviators. On 01 November 2002, I bought half of the airplane.

My only regrets are that I didn't start 20 years earlier, and my Dad isn't here to enjoy it.